If you are a word junkie like me, then this week you will have been well and truly inundated by thousands of words about Anzac day and its pros and cons. My link with Anzac Day is tenuous. I can make a tasty Anzac biscuit (the secret lies in doubling however much golden syrup is recommended), but I have never actually marked the day or even thought much about it. Maybe if I’d had great- uncles who fought in World War 1 it would have been different, but my ancestors seemed to have been either too young or too old for that particular conflict.
A lot of the Anzac hype disturbs me, especially when I hear it said that Australians are defined by the Anzac spirit and the events of those few days in 1914. It even has been said, with due solemnity, that the events of Anzac Cove mark the beginning of Australia as a nation.
Imagine defining a person you know well, using only one marker. Every single person is a mix of the gene pool they share, the stories they inherited, the opportunities they were given, the beliefs they hold dear and so on. Throw their gender and place of birth into that mix and you have a wonderfully unique, but somewhat undefinable, human being.
In the hundred years since Gallipoli millions of people have fled the horrors of war and made Australia their home. Every segment of Australian society is peppered with family names that go back to the years after World War 2 when women and men arrived by liner seeking peace. Now the fastest growing communities in Australia are the Indians and Chinese followed by South Sudanese, Bhutanese, Nepalese and Congolese and a glorious mix of other nationalities. Add to them the Vietnamese who arrived between 1975 and 1990 and it tells us that approximately a quarter of the Australian population was born elsewhere.
Our little slice of war history means nothing to someone who experienced first- hand the horrors and displacement of a conflict not of their making. While they mourn the losses they are grateful to call Australia home. Maybe Anzac Day could become a day when all Australians remember the costs of war and give thanks that people of different cultures, religions and world views are able to live together in peace.
Prayer of Pope John Paul II at Hiroshima
To you, Creator of nature and humanity,
in truth and beauty I pray:
Hear my voice, for it is the voice of victims of all wars and
violence among individuals and nations.
Hear my voice, for it is the voice of all children who suffer and
will suffer when people put their faith in weapons and war.
Hear my voice when I beg you to instill into the hearts of all
human beings the wisdom of peace, the strength of justice
and the joy of fellowship.
Hear my voice, for I speak for the multitudes in every
country and every period of history who do not want war
and are ready to walk the road of peace.
Hear my voice, and grant insight and strength so that we
may always respond to hatred with love, to injustice with
total dedication to justice, to need with the sharing of self,
to war with peace.
O God hear my voice, and grant unto the world your everlasting peace.